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Legislative budgets increase aid to schools, to Cuomo's chagrin

The New York State Senate has proposed adding $415 million in schools aid to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s original budget proposal, according to a resolution passed today. As expected, the Senate’s plan leaves out extra funding for New York City, which could be forced to give back roughly $240 million at the end of the month because it missed a mandate teacher evaluation deadline.

The Senate’s education funding proposal is $81 million more than what the Assembly’s proposal, which adds $334 million to Cuomo’s proposal. Unlike the Senate, the Assembly, whose Democratic caucus is dominated by New York City lawmakers, is proposing to restore the $240 million to city schools.

Both of the houses are offering roughly $300 million of its education aid to funding formulas that emphasizes greater funding equity between poor and affluent school districts.

“The Senate, like the Assembly, deserves credit for adding $300 million in classroom aid to be distributed based on fairness and equity,” said Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Billy Easton, whose group has lobbied for the budget to include a greater share of aid for poor districts. “The big difference between the two houses is that the Assembly is standing up to stop $240 million in cuts to New York City while the Senate would cut these funds.”

The Assembly released some more detail about its budget proposal, which are below:

The full $25 million for the pre-kindergarten grant, which was recommended by the Governor, has been preserved and the program modified to include additional half-day slots.

The Assembly proposes $975 million for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), an increase of $25 million over the Executive Proposal. The increase in funding would be dedicated for the implementation of the New York State Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

Additional funding is included for SUNY and CUNY community colleges. The plan includes an additional $150 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student to raise the total community college base aid to $2,422 per FTE. The proposal also includes the restoration of more than $1.5 million for SUNY and CUNY childcare centers, which provide vital assistance to parents who attend college.

Higher Education Opportunity Programs (HEOP) would be increased by $3.7 million.

The Assembly proposal includes $106 million in capital funds for CUNY and an additional $50 million for SUNY Stonybrook Health Science Center, SUNY Downstate Health Science Center, and SUNY Upstate Health Science Center.

Cuomo knocked both one-house proposals, telling reporters today that he would not consider giving back any education money to New York City. Cuomo officials say one issue he has with restoring the funds is that it will make it more difficult to enforce a similar law with other districts moving forward.

“We don’t enforce the rule, then going forward we’re going to have a problem,” Cuomo said, according to the Albany Times Union, referring to the time constraints placed on districts statewide to reach a plan.

Those funds could be restored anyway through a lawsuit brought by education funding attorney Michael Rebell, who has temporarily gotten both the state and the city to halt immediate budget cuts resulting from the state aid deficit.

Legislative leaders in both houses are meeting tonight to begin formal negotiation proceedings. A budget it due on March 1, but all sides have said that they hope to have one approved by March 21.

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